Love is a Crock

By Erin Bradley

 

I think about having been engaged the same way a transexual might think about once having had a dick. It seems like it wasn’t me, but rather the real me trapped in someone else’s body.

The body I inhabited was engaged to a mechanic named Jerry. He owned a motorcycle and enjoyed getting high, playing video games, and avoiding bill collectors. Still, I was in love and compared to the boyfriend before that, an alcoholic with a misshapen penis in his seventh year of getting a Bachelor’s degree, Jerry seemed like a gem.

Jerry was too much of a stoner to be considered anything but liberal, but he came from conservative stock. By ‘conservative’ I mean his mom and dad used to talk about the state of his sister’s hymen at the dinner table and say that poor people had fallen short of the glory of God. When he was 5 years old, Jerry’s mom had him holding up photos of chopped up fetuses at abortion protests.

When we first started dating I would question his parent’s politics as best I could while maintaining the innate standard of politeness that’s genetically impossible to turn off if you come from the Midwest or were raised by the kind of mom who made you give a Valentine to everyone in the class (I was both).

After a while I got tired of fighting. Even though Jerry’s folks were conservative assholes, they were assholes who succeeded in a number of areas my own relatives had failed.
Never was this more apparent than the holidays. His parents gave awesome gifts and lived in a gorgeous house. His dad was the kind you see on Campbell’s Soup commercials and his mom’s domestic skills made Martha Stewart look like a pile of shit with a bad dye job. Their holiday parties managed to be both boozy fun and spiritually deep at the same time.

My family get-togethers were always at my aunt’s trailer, which smelled like kerosene, Pall Malls, and wet dog. I rarely got anything I liked and invariably two or more people would get in a fight that ended in someone storming off swearing to never come for the holidays ever again because they’ve “had it up to here with this shit.”

The more serious Jerry and I got, the harder I tried to fit in with his family. I started attending weddings, reunions, and religious holidays at 2 day intervals. I hid the Mother Jones magazine when his mom and dad came over and tried my best to swear less. I remember going to Bible study and then driving to my girlfriend Lachelle's house where I would suck down Marlboro Lights and rage over how sexist the sermon was. I was living the dual life of part riot girl, part Sambo.

I started doing things not normal for your average 45 year old, let alone a girl with the majority of her twenties still in front of her: I got matching furniture, including a “country style” dinette set. I would cook up a week’s worth of meals in advance and freeze individual portions for ‘fast and delicious meals in minutes’. I would (this is difficult to say) PACK JERRY’S LUNCH while he sat on his ass, smoking a doob and playing Sega.

Sometime around the peak of my Susie Homemaker psychosis I asked for (and of course got) a crockpot for my birthday from Jerry’s parents. It had pink and green flowers on the side and the word “RIVAL” on the front. I think that was some sort of subliminal message from his mom.

Carefully cutting up hunks of meat and vegetables and spending the day in erotic anticipation of the meal that awaited took the place of any sort of sex Jerry and I were not having, as fighting had taken up the majority of our time together as of late.

One cold, shitty February day I came home to an empty house. Jerry was working late and hadn't called to let me know (again). I was in a pissy mood as I peered into the Rival to see how the beef stew was doing.

Inside was a cold oily mess that smelled similar to what I'd imagine would be the odor of rotting cow vagina. Apparently I had put all the ingredients in that morning and forgotten to turn the fucking thing on.

Jerry came home hours later to me crying facedown on the floor of our bedroom, refusing to talk to him or move my hands from my face, which had become bright red due to an unknown allergy to Reunuzit Carpet Fresh. It was the start of what would be a four month long breakdown whereby I started questioning my relationship with him, his parents, and ultimately, myself.

What the fuck was I doing? Why the fuck was I living like this? Why did I alternately want to cry and gouge my eyes out with jealousy after seeing all the cool, creative shit my friends were doing and here I was stuck with a mechanic who didn’t understand why repo men calling the house was a bad thing and whose parents’ love was contingent upon me shutting the fuck up when they made jokes about Hillary Clinton being a hairy bulldyke?

Not surprisingly, Jerry and I split up. And though I can trace it back to a number of notable incidents and events - the work party wine fight that ended in a scratched arm, the overdrawn debit card screaming match in Target, the hours spent bitching on the phone on the company dime - the time I looked deep, so deep into that crockpot is the night where I truly lost him and found myself.

Erin Bradley is a freelance writer living in New York City. The blog of her dating life can be found on Nerve.com.

Illustration by Olivia Todd.